Is It Time to Modernize Your Marketing Machine?
by Kevin Hofer
As sales and marketing professionals, the pressure has never been greater for us to grow our businesses and push them forward. At the same time, traditional sales and marketing tactics are becoming less and less effective. This makes it increasingly challenging to achieve positive outcomes and deliver a solid return on your marketing investment. If this sounds at all familiar, then it might just be time for you to modernize your marketing machine.
When we talk about traditional sales and marketing tactics, what are the things that come to mind? Here are just a few examples that I think of:
- Pushy sales people - you know the ones, they act as gatekeepers to the information that consumers want, doling it out only when it makes sense for them.
- Offline / analog advertising - my mailbox at home is full of direct mail pieces, and I see dozens of billboards on I-77 on my commute to work.
- Unsolicited emails - our email inboxes are overflowing, due in part to the number of spammy, salesy, hey-let’s-connect-because-I-think-it-will-be-good-for-me messages we receive every day.
This certainly isn’t an all-inclusive list, but you get the point. All of these tactics are very interruptive in nature. The businesses deploying these measures are pushing their messages out to try and get the attention of their prospects or customers. In reality, all this does is annoy them.
Consumers want to be in control of the buying process. And guess what, today - more so than ever before - the consumer IS in control of the buying process. Consider the following statistics:
- Only 29% of people want to talk to a salesperson to learn more about a product, while 62% will consult a search engine
- 70% of the buyer’s journey is complete before a buyer ever reaches out to sales
- 93% of online experiences begin with a search engine
- 81% of people perform some type of online research before making a large purchase
These data points make it very clear, that the sales and marketing landscape today has changed dramatically. It’s time to take a hard look at how we are trying to engage with customers and prospects and update our approach. It’s time for us to modernize our marketing machine.
1. Focus on the Customer
This is where it all begins. It seems so obvious, right? Focus on the customer. A lot of companies say they do this, but more often than not it’s lip service. Being “customer-centric” needs to be more than a tagline, or a talking point. We need to be truly interested in - and invested in - what our customers want from us.
We want to attract buyers, not annoy them. To communicate with buyers in the way that they want to be communicated with. To understand them intimately, so we know how best to engage them. The ultimate goal is to deliver the right message, to the right person (prospect, lead, or customer), at the right time.
The only way this can be done is by developing a deep and intimate understanding of your target customers. As marketers, we often creating messaging, or content around what we THINK buyers want. Instead, do the necessary homework to learn what messaging or content appeals to those buyers. Figure out what it is they actually want.
The best way to do this is to spend time building out buyer personas. There are a number of resources available online to help with this exercise. HubSpot has a nice collection to get you started here.
2. Focus on Data
Much of the pressure we feel as sales and marketing pros these days is around showing a positive ROI on our efforts. Doing this with traditional tactics is difficult, and in most cases, ends up being nothing more than an educated guess. How many people saw our billboard, how many people heard our spot on the radio, how many people saw the ad we ran in the trade publication? What impact did that have on our business?
The beauty of modern (digital) marketing is that virtually everything can be measured. This allows us to determine the effectiveness of what we are doing - essentially in real time. Making calculations of things like ROI much more exact (for better or for worse).
And that is the most important point of all. This data provides clarity on the effectiveness of our investment in sales and marketing. Beyond ROI, on a more micro level, we can use data to gain insights about our customers and how they behave. Which we can, in turn, use to enhance the customer experience. We can use the data to tell us which marketing channels are working, and which ones are not.
The immediate availability of this data also allows us to be much more nimble in our execution. If the data tells us that we got it wrong, we can use that same data to help us make it right. In short, we want to use this data to help guide our marketing strategy.
3. Focus on Content
The modern consumer - today’s consumer - is more empowered than ever to control their buying journey. Buyers seek out information online, not sales people. As a result of this, the path through the buyer’s journey is no longer linear. Traditionally, sales people would pull people through a structured step by step process from learning about your product to actually buying it. Today, however, consumers now do their research independently, and across many different channels (i.e. website, social media, etc). This results in a journey that looks more like a maze than a linear path:
Customers are essentially begging us - those at companies with products and services to sell - to engage them in a different way. They are ignoring the interruptive tactics that had proved successful in the past. They are also telling us this, indirectly, through their shifting behavior. We now know that customers do 70% of their research about a product, or service they are interested in, before ever contacting a representative of the company.
Our goal, as sales and marketing professionals, is to provide the information to the buyer, whenever they are ready to consume it. Further, we want those buyers to get that information from us, and not our competitors. Sales and marketing teams must work closely together to deeply understand their customers’ needs (see #1!) and create original content that addresses those needs. Further, that content needs to be delivered in a format that the buyer is most likely to consume.
Delivering this value not only establishes you as an authority in your industry, it also builds trust with potential buyers.
The building block of every single business in the world is the emotion of trust”. - Marcus Sheridan
This approach builds trust because you’ve delivered value without asking for anything in return. Who do you think a customer is more likely to engage with, a sales person making an unsolicited cold call (asking for your business), or the company that provided answers to their questions, when it was convenient for them?
If your sales and marketing initiatives aren’t generating results you expect, or if you’ve just noticed them becoming incrementally less effective over time, it might be time to take a step back, and take stock of your overall approach. Are the tactics you’ve deployed interruptive (and potentially self-serving), or are they truly helpful to the prospect / buyer?
Focus on better understanding your customers and their behavior, use data to guide your strategy, and create content that delivers value to your target audience (before asking for anything in return), and you’re well on your way to modernizing your own marketing machine.
Finally, most of what is described here is part of the inbound marketing methodology and is central to what we do at Digital Momentum. We believe that inbound is a better way to market and a better way to sell. It is the best way to attract, engage and delight customers. It is THE solution to help your company grow better.